In the Flesh TV Series Review
Directed by Jonny Campbell
Written by Dominic Mitchell
2013, Region 1 (NTSC), 180 minutes, Not Rated
DVD released on October 18th, 2013
Luke Newberry as Kieren
Emily Bevan as Amy Dyer
David Walmsley as Rick Macy
I can't believe I'm not writing a raving review of something the BBC has done. I feel like a traitor to all Anglophiles. But I can't ignore that In the Flesh is annoying. (Mild spoilers alert for what follows).
Luke Newberry plays Kieren Walker, a boy whose adolescence was marginally worse than average, what with the death and reanimation and all. He was fortunate enough to be captured by the authorities and treated to become a fully reformed Partially Deceased Syndrome Sufferer, ready to rejoin society. Except for his crippling guilt, zombie-hunting sister, and hateful neighbors.
Kieren is a walking tragedy. An irritating walking tragedy at that. The story begins with his release from the facility to travel home to his family in Roarton, Lancashire. His parents, while anxious, are genuinely happy that their son is alive again, especially considering suicide is what took him away in the first place. Already a cheery start, eh? We quickly learn that Kieren is overcome with guilt over his suicide, lingering guilt from his best friend's death in Afghanistan (which was very indirectly his fault so he blames himself) which caused the suicide in the first place, guilt over eating people, and guilt over his family's new burden of hiding him.
The "woe is me" bullshit gets old fast.
The constant walking-on-eggshells is exhausting to watch. His sister attempts to hide her anger and fear with hostility, but Harriet Caines handles the complexities of survivor guilt clumsily and her reconciliation with her brother feels forced. When his best friend Rick finally reanimates and returns home from Afghanistan, his father - head of the Human Volunteer Force militia that hunts zombies - wants him to again choose between honoring his families' warlike tendencies or honoring his close friendship (and possibly more than friendship) with his wimpy outsider buddy.
In the Flesh's one redemption is Amy Dyer. Emily Bevan is a unbreathing breath of fresh air. A cheery PDS sufferer, she realizes soon after rehabilitation that the living are terrified of death. She's already dead, so the world is her oyster. It's gratifying to see her try to get Kieren on board with enjoying the second chance they've been given. Her storyline is sadly limited, but the influence she has in delightful and I wish the whole series was about her instead.
Unfortunately, Amy can't resuscitate this show all on her own. In the Flesh tries too many metaphors and themes to be effective in any one of them. Is this about a family recovering from a suicidal child? Is it about standing up for who you love even if your family doesn't approve? Is this about the alarmingly high suicide rate for gay teenagers? Is it about parents seeing their children for who they are as people? Is this about understanding and acceptance of different cultures and origins? I'm not even sure In the Flesh knows what it's trying to say in the end.
Sorry, BBC. I hope we can still be friends.
Video, Audio and Special Features:
Video, audio and special features will not be graded as this was a screener.